Saturday, August 24, 2013

Drone news from around the world!

Yesterday I drove a bit north of town to bid on cleaning some house windows there and was startled by what sounded like a plane about to crash-land. The house I was looking at was surrounded by some pretty tall oaks so for a few minutes I couldn't make out what was happening. Then, as I heard the plane come back closer to me, it dawned on me that it was probably a crop-duster, spreading herbicide, etc. over a corn field just beyond those oak trees.

And this got me thinking about UAVs.

Without researching the topic much, I'd have to guess that more than a few crop-dusting adventurers have died in the process of ridding cornfields of nasty weeds and assorted creep-crawlies. It should not be hard to control a crop-dusting plane much like Predator drones are being controlled in Afghanistan, etc. Oh sure, that old prop-plane can't be used for much besides sight-seeing and spreading chemicals, but what's the point in endangering one's life when it simply is not necessary anymore?

Anyway ...

Things are getting interesting in the Great Bear state.

Pranksters are going to great lengths to install road signs that warn drivers of aerial drone surveillance. Of course, it just isn't true. But the fact that the steel signs have been made to look and feel just like the ones installed by the highway authority begs the question: who's got the cash laying around -- as well as the time -- to propagate such a practical joke?

Have "drone wars" really been going on that long?

A few weeks ago the 23rd annual International Aerial Robotics Competition commenced in both China and in the US of A. What made this year's contest a bit more interesting is something called "Mission Six." This UAV-centered activity entails creating havoc in the Eurasian banking system. Scary stuff, right?

I don't know ... with the news of the National Security Agency keeping tabs on nearly everything that's hit the Intrawebz in the past five years, nothing related to the over-reaching arms of technology frightens me anymore.

Back in the late '90's, I agreed to help a guy get a handle on his lawn-care business. This summertime adventure offered me a little extra cash as well as some much-needed exercise. It also required that I do battle with a boisterous gaggle of Canadian geese that would not relinquish control of a suburban sub-division small-lake dam. Each week upon arriving there to mow the grass on that dam, those infernal beasts protested mightily, a few of them even to the point of chasing me down! Needless to say, I looked up into the hot summertime sky and pleaded for intervention ... but it never came.

Too bad this guy wasn't around at the time!

Flocks of Canadian geese, along with seagulls, have been causing problems around airports for decades. Of course, it would not be a good idea to use UAVs in those places to control these pesky creatures. But to curtail their evil practices any place else they choose to congregate?

What a great idea!

Now to wrap up this little "drones-around-the-world" post ...

Wasn't there a James Bond movie that had some robotic dolphins in it? Or did they make an appearance in one of these wonderful films?

Not the same as aerial drones, marine drones (not really robotic dolphins) have been in the news lately. A half-dozen or so European countries have colluded to engineer some unmanned underwater robots. According to the director of this venture, underwater robots aren't new; developing a fleet of self-thinking, problem-solving mini-submarines definitely is!

Like a school of dolphins, these UUV's (underwater unmanned vehicles) can't rely on radio signals to coordinate their missions; they instead must use sonar. Right now, the largest squad of marine robots is only 5 but the plan is to have dozens -- if not more -- traversing the deep blue ... someday.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Ack! You spent HOW much to self-publish your novel?!

It was the winter of '84. Snow, snow and more snow. Even some ice, too. It was an excellent time for plopping down in front of the old Selectric typewriter to hammer out my first novel ... sorta.

From December of '84 through March of '85 I pecked and poked away on that wonderful beast of a typing machine before an early spring -- and the tall grass that comes with it -- forced me outside and behind a lawn mower. How far did I get? Close to 200 typed pages (double-spaced, mind you!).

About that same time I asked a fellow aspiring writer if he wouldn't mind taking a look at the book. As we talked about plot, characterization, theme, etc. we also talked about how to get the book published ... once it was fully written, of course. Finding an agent was discussed. Drafting query letters also came to mind. Now remember, this was early 1985 when the technology to "self-publish" centered around the utilization of expensive but somewhat-effective copy machines. There were no personal computers and therefore no digitized literature ... at least not available to the common man. Obviously, then, the only way to publish a novel was for it to be accepted by a publisher. The cost of hiring an agent, etc. along with the warm weather of spring forced me to tuck those type-written pages away for future reference.

Now flash-forward 20 years ... to 2005. That was when I began to sacrifice some of my computer-gaming time to draft Betrovia. And by August of 2011, the first book of the trilogy was done! So what did that cost me? For the most part, nothing. I formatted the thing myself (following Amazon's Kindle Digital Publishing guidelines), edited/proofread it myself (relying on my own editing/proofreading skills). I gave Createspace (Amazon's paperback division) $25 to enroll Betrovia in the Expanded Distribution plan. I designed (if that's the best word for it) the cover for the ebook and used Createspace's FREE! online cover-creation process to finalize the shell for the paperback. What did I know about launching a book, about publicizing its release, about advertising it once it was avaiable for purchase? Not a thing. And besides selling about 60 paperbacks to friends and family that Fall, very few ebooks were purchased via

So, to get to the point of this blogpost: what is a reasonable budget for publishing a book? Let's see what the folks who populate the Writers Cafe want to say.

(As a way to organize their thoughts, I've divided them into two groups: the Cheap Route and The More-Expensive Route.)

Cheap Route
"Zero. Ziltch. Nada. Nothing. Be a designer. Cover free. Yes! Who needs a website? It's on Amazon. Massive site anyway. Get your mates to read through and point out mistakes. Editor free. Spend years reading and writing to make your craft as good as it can get ... hours and hours, year on year, working out what sound like a pile of dunces ... and what sounds and flows well ... well it's your own ... time ... oh, hang on a minute. Cost is in the craft. Oops."

"It can cost as much as you want it to cost.  However, at the minimum:
$35 - Copyright Registration
$10 - ISBN through Createspace
$25 - Createspace Extended Distribution
The rest is variable.  You can trade for editorial services or just find some really anal first readers.  Cover art can range from $0 if you take a picture yourself to hundreds or thousands.  Formatting for print is a small learning curve, but not too hard.  Formatting for ebook is just a couple clicks with apps like Scrivener. Doesn't cost much unless you let it. ETA - Oh yeah, and you'll need to pay for a proof copy of your paperback, around $10 with shipping. Again, not much."

"Your cover is what attracts attention FIRST! Not your writing, not your formatting, your cover can make people pick up your book first. Later, after the reviews come in, word-of-mouth and those reviews will sell your book. You should spend as much on cover design and creation as you do copy-editing (and the publishers typically budget thousands of dollars for covers, far more than they pay their copy-editors to do the book).  And they spend many hours coming up with the designs they use. Yes, you can do it cheaper. And a lot of those cheaper covers look exactly that way, cheap. If you can find a very good cover at a reasonable price, grab it."

"For ebook only, usually $20 for stock art. Maybe more if I want a new font I don't already own. All other costs are monthly overhead (cs6, website, mailchimp). Maybe if I wrote in a genre outside romance I wouldn't do my own covers (especially if I did SF or Fantasy). No beta readers, editors, proofers, or formatters. I'm not sure there's a single title in my catalog that went live having had more than just my eyes on it. I did consider getting a formatter for the Createspace interior file and cover. When I was told I wouldn't get a copy of the base PSD/ID files (HUGE PET PEEVE OF MINE), I decided to try it myself. No sweat and I am satisfied with how they came out. Saved minimum of $150 (interior files) times 3. I don't think the time involved in performing these tasks was more than I would have spent managing someone else doing it. Totally think marketing/PR $ is a waste (beyond my mailchimp auto-responder fee and my monthly web hosting costs). Of course, before I self-published my fiction, I wrote, edited, formatted, marketed and published for a Fortune 500 audience."

"For novels, my budget usually looks like:
Copy-editing: 150-250 (depends on length of novel)
Cover: 30-325 (depends on genre)
Paperback formatting: free to 80 (I do my own ebook formatting and the paperback formatting is generally 30-50 but sometimes higher)
Everything else I do for myself.  For my short stories and such, many of them sold to magazines or anthologies, so I got free editing. Or I use my husband because he catches 98% of typos in shorter works (I could use him for longer works, but I feel that's putting too much on him and want him to read for enjoyment and to give me bigger picture feedback on the novels). Generally my rule on a book is that if I have to sell more than 100 copies to earn back what it cost to publish it, I've probably spent too much."

"For each of my 24 books I spent:
$35.00 for cover art - mostly from Book Cover Art
$150.00 for editing
$0.00 for author picture, took it off an old one I had
$0.00 for website, Google is free
$0.00 - do my own, a word doc works just fine
$200.00 in three years for advertisements that didn't do much.
$0.00 - blog"

"I'm lucky, because I get stuff like editing and cover design done for free. If I had to pay for it, I'd be out of business. (I do my own formatting. Takes like two minutes.) Most of my stock photos also come for free because reasons. Although sometimes I do have to pay for it, and I never spend more than 10 bucks for a stock photo. For my paperbacks I will buy the $10 CS ISBN. Otherwise, my only expenses are my yearly business fee ($50) and my webhosting, which I already paid for for other reasons. Except now it's a tax writeoff. I put out sometimes up to six titles a month, so I have to be as cheap and as economical as  possible. Paying more than $20 bucks a month is just not feasible for me. And I believe that my system works just fine for me, and for other people I help, so I would say that those figures in the OP are really, really high."

"All my money goes to feeding my family publishing – Under $50
Developmental edit  – free (Workshops, friends, class)
Copy editing - free (friends, family, fans, numerous time doing it yourself while constantly improving)
Cover Design – $0 (Public Domain photos, spouse as photographer, GIMP)
Book formatting and layout – free (I've gotten pretty good at this)
Printing – $33 (Print on demand, optional $25 expanded distribution, $4.00 proof, $4.00 shipping.)
ISBN – Smashwords/Kobo/Createspace free.
Author photo – free (Your Facebook profile picture is fine)
Marketing – free (Rely on social media and friends and family only)
Website – free (Use free WordPress option(or Blogger))
Mailing List - free (Mad Mimi for me)
All other labor - hugs (for the emo bunny minions)"

I spent $35 to register copyright, and about $12 in postage submitting my novella to a magazine which publishes novellas. I have almost recouped my costs. My husband and I made the cover in photoshop. I know of a guy who wanted to publish his first novel in print only, and in addition to the cost of an initial print run he wanted to hire a publicist for $5,000 or $10,000. All together he was looking at upwards of $30,000 in expenses. I think he didn't make the jump. I'm a lot more comfortable being out $45 or so than risking tens of thousands of dollars, but for my next self-publishing venture (still probably a year away, but maybe less) I plan to shell out for a line/copy editor (at about $25/hour) and possibly some professional cover art."

"If you do it right, $0. I've done 22 for $0 (both eBook and paper). But I'm lucky - I do my own covers and my editor works for sandwiches. We'll I guess I'd have to add up that up (okay $100 sandwiches). And no ... she's not my husband."

"I'll give you an ACTUAL 'budget publishing' plan - Under $80.00:
Developmental edit  – $0.00 (find some volunteer beta-readers)
Copy editing – $0 (Trade copy-edits with another trusted author, and also be a decent self-editor to begin with. Obviously not everyone can do this, but it is done.)
Cover Design – $5 or less (License a photo or two from a place like iStockphoto or someplace, then do-it-yourself)
Book formatting and layout – free (Do it yourself using Scrivener or other free tools or even Draft2Digital)
Printing – free (use CreateSpace)
Expanded Distribution of Print Book via CreateSpace - $25* (*a luxury that can be cut, but a good luxury to invest in)
ISBN – Use the free ones provided by CreateSpace and Smashwords; use a free ASIN on Amazon or BNID on Nook)
Author photo – free (have a spouse or relative use your Galaxy S3 or S4 and make sure it's nice. Crop it and refine as needed in GIMP)
Marketing – free (rely on book blogger sites that accept ePub, .mobi and PDF files and don't require a physical copy)
Website – free (Blogspot and Wordpress work just fine, so the only investment is your time. Or maybe $10-12/year for a custom domain name)
US Copyright Office registration - $35 (this is one expense that I never go 'budget route' on because I actually know what's fact and what's myth about copyright registration... It's one luxury no one should cut. My total? $65 to $77. Sure, you're trading away a lot of credibility if you rely on a proofreader who's not good (but paying for someone isn't a guarantee of high quality, either), or if you can't proofread anything yourself, or if your cover design skills are subpar. But assuming you can pull some proofreading and basic cover design skills out of your background and experience, as some of us can... It's a LOT easier to turn a profit with a budget that doesn't even exceed $80. Am I suggesting one NEVER pay for pro editing or pro covers or pro formatting? NOT AT ALL. But if you have a decent skill set, AND have way more time than money... my only point is that you can spend WELL below $500 (about 13-16.5 percent of that, actually) and have a lot less overhead per book to overcome. I typically spend more. My three published books so far have covers I paid for and proofing I paid for, but I still spent a lot less than $500 per book. Probably around the $250 to $300 range, roughly. **NOTE: If one foregoes printing, and debuts their book as an eBook only, that $65-$77 can be trimmed back further. Don't need the $25 for Expanded Distribution if you're not doing print to begin with. So that'd cut the costs down to $40-$52."

More-Expensive Route
"Often, it's the covers that give the self published author away. The thing is, it doesn't matter if you're self published or trad published, what matters is if you're well published. And doing things on a shoestring, or all on your own because you can't afford to do it another way, is the WRONG way to do it. Doing it cheap because you have the skills, or have people with the skills to do it for free for you is FINE. Self publishing is not DIY publishing. You need to wear the hat of the author and publisher. If a publisher offered you a contract and told you, 'Oh, by the way, we don't have money to hire professionals, so I'm going to be the editor, and graphic designer and marketer...'  I'm pretty sure you'd run for the hills. I would. I can't think of anyone who has all those skills. Again, I'm not saying you HAVE to pay for it. If you can barter, or trade, or beg, or negotiate... heck, all the power to you. But most people can't do that. I pay for professional cover design because I'm not an artist. I pay for professional editing because I'm not an editor. And something to remember: Editor, is not an entry level position. It isn't a title you get from getting a degree in English, nor is it a title you get because you were pretty good at proofing work for a friend. Editors have specific skills that they've acquired through continuing education and professional training. They've worked under editors, and developed those skills. They're the ones who know when conventions have changed. It's not about knowing if it's 'who' or 'whom' because sometimes 'who' is technically wrong, but correct for the manuscript. Also, I like to think of editors like doctors. They're specialists. You don't find a line editor who does science fiction novels as well as children's picture books. Something to remember: your competition isn't other self published authors. Your competition is all the books beside you on the shelf. Most of those are trad. published."

"For editing and proofreading, cover and formatting, I budget a grand. Audiobook will cost you about $2500 unless you use the royalty share option, which you'll deeply regret if it sells well. The dumbest $2500 you'll have ever saved. Marketing, probably $500 to $1000 over the life of the book. All in, call it couple grand for the ebook. If it sells decently I'll recoup that within the first couple weeks. And before everyone starts in on how not everybody can sell that many in a few weeks, consider carefully that I used that exact budget when I figured it would take me a year per title to recoup it (assuming I ever did). My theory was that there might be a reason that well-edited, well-packaged, appropriately marketed books sell better than poorly or non-edited, badly packaged, poorly or non-marketed books. I frankly don't get the immediate gratification notion that you'll make your investment back quickly (no other business works that way, so why should one of the most competitive on the planet?). And I know, I know, not everyone can afford to invest in their work, and we'd all be poorer for it if we weren't lavished with their precious snowflakes in a glutted market. Personally, mmm, not so much. I find it just an excuse to cut corners, but hey, everyone's got an opinion."

"Developmental edit: Trusted beta readers
Line/copyedit: $600-$800 (generally $30-$50 an hour) (this is for two passes)
Proofread: less than $200
Formatting: $100 to $400 depending on what I'm after
Cover art: $450.00
LSI set up: $75
Total: $1500 to $2000"

Friday, August 2, 2013

Is this The Golden Age of Publishing?

"... there are only two essential components to publishing in the digital era: the writer and the reader." David Gaughran

One of the pastors of my church has been working for at least the last two years on putting together a "handbook" for ministering to older adults. That manuscript is full of thoughtful, thought-provoking activities, humorous anecdotes, attractive clipart and we don't want to forget those old-timers' jokes!

Her husband and her children know that she's been working on this massive (over 600 pages as of the last time we spoke together about it) manuscript as well as her co-pastors. (I think she's also shared this project with a few of the "50+ Group" that she is in charge of ministering to.)

Her biggest concern is how to publish this monstrosity? 

I've tried to encourage her to "go the indie way," but she feels that she wants/needs the "security" of having that book officially vetted by at least one reputable Christian publisher. I've asked her why she feels the need to have her work approved by someone whose main concern is: "How will I make any money from this book?" If I were to ask any of the fine patrons of MFA 280 they would laugh at me for even asking such a thing!

And what is wrong with that? Shouldn't Christian publishers be allowed the freedom to be in business to not only season the market with uplifting and encouraging literature but to make a little scratch in the process?

As it is with many things in this amazing technological age we now reside in, the freedom to "get your thoughts out there" is as easy as uploading a doc-file to Amazon's Kindle Digital Publishing server (with a nazzy-looking cover or not!). (Or you could even use Draft2Digital?)

But has this enlightening digital age given "the common man" too much freedom? Or are we living in the Golden Age of Publishing?

Let's see what the fine writers who frequent The Writers' Cafe have to say about it!

"In the age of 'Indie,' the modern author is able to publish instantly. But is this a good thing? Take the box of manuscripts I have in the basement. Bad novels. I know they are bad. They should not see the light of day. Or should they? I believe you have to write badly for a long time before you write well and I wrote badly for a long time. I have probably written ten novels and maybe half have made it into print. There was no choice. No one would publish you so you just had to work on your craft. Rewriting that would go on for years. So the question is: If authors can put out their writing instantly are they using the readers as first line editors? And is this a good thing? Or is it just inevitable in the age of the internet where anyone can cut a CD or write a book?"

"Yeah, we get it. To traditionally published authors, we (indie authors) are the great unwashed. An irritant. We've been hearing this for years now. Do you actually think you're telling us something new? Thank you for pointing out that you're not part of the problem, since you've spent years honing your craft, and all of your bad writing is behind you.  While we, on the other hand, have the utter gall to fling our crap out there to unsuspecting readers."

"YES. It is a wonderful thing. It is the best thing to happen to book publishing since book publishing started. It is the best thing to happen for writers since Gutenberg got the press rolling. It is the best thing to happen for readers and culture since we first figured out how to write."

"This falls into the category, can a singer be fantastic if they are not attractive or  fully clothed in their videos? Or would a princess be considered beautiful if she did not have the wealth to make her have the clothes/shape and makeup? I'm not convinced a 'bestseller' is free of typos, read books which aren't. BUT, I do believe it's all about referrals - if one person likes you and refers you then a whole bunch of other people will follow. Interestingly someone told me the other day they do not buy books by searching but purely on recommendations, that could be emails from Amazon or friends."

"No doubt some people are doing this. Others realize their first effort isn't awesome and keep slogging away till they produce a book worth reading, either by revision or by writing new books. Part of publishing is learning that everything you write is not golden, and that it's wise to use an editor or a beta reader. Some people figure this out right away, and unfortunately some don't. But there's nothing you can do about the ones that publish crud... you have no control over anyone's work but your own."

"I would think most on here use an editor as a first line editor, not the public. I get your point though, I downloaded a short story from Amazon last week that looked like it had been immediately uploaded to KDP by a person using a spoon attached to their forehead to type without error checking/editing afterwards."

"I think the marketplace can sort this one out. Books that are inappropriately published don't get purchased, don't get reviewed, or get reviews that kill them off. There is a lot of complaining out there about low-quality authors dumping their garbage onto amazon in the hopes of big bucks. Well, they don't get big bucks, because their lack of professionalism gets them in the end. Those people don't worry me."

"I think that it's a good thing because sure, you 'know' they're bad because you personally don't like them. But maybe someone else does. Maybe someone else is going to read the novel you thought was bad and see beauty that will inspire them or make them think; that will change them for the better."

"I often wonder how many great works have been lost because the author did not love it enough to let others read it."

"I think the experience of self-publishing 
will do the job of weeding people out."

"There is a cream rises to the top element in writing and publishing and certainly this is the function of reviews and people talking about books. The good books get passed on."

"I've been going through all my old novels recently. I wouldn't even think of publishing any without a major rewrite, but some have good stories despite the bad writing ... there's no reason not to give them that major rewrite and then publish them."

"As to having a trunk full of bad manuscripts, you have to figure out what to do with these ugly babies.  You can either kill them and bury then in the backyard, give them up for adoption (i.e. publish under a pen name), put them in their Sunday best and show them around like a proud parent, or do a little plastic surgery. Assuming there's some redeeming value to them, I'd go with the last option.  (And if I remember correctly, John Locke said his work was terrible at first, but there were some jewels sparkling in the muck, so he plucked those and retooled everything, resulting in the Donovan Creed novels.)"

"I would assume that your old 'bad' novels followed the rules of the English language, and that the plot held together, and that characters acted in a believable fashion. If all of the above are true, then what magical power do you have that allows you to decide if a book is good or bad? The only thing that makes any art bad is poor craft. If the artist is competent in craft, then the decision on whether it is good art or bad art is totally subjective. The arguments you are making are elitist and would deny an audience access to valid cultural product simply because it did not suit your taste. The gap between King and Rushdie is entirely in their demographics. Both write well, both explore the prevailing social and cultural climate, and both have massive and dedicated audience. To say that Rushdie writes literature while King writes popular schlock is to totally misunderstand the role and value of art in a society."

"Rushdie is a brilliant writer but his work is difficult. King is a brilliant writer who has written both masterworks and failures. Both his good work and his weak work is easy to read. Both Rushdie and King are artists. The line between artist and craftsman is not so clearly defined, and despite what people have said in the past, genre does not divide artistry from schlock. Schlock for me is that which lacks mastery of craft. I went to graduate school with a lot of literary writers and took some flack for writing genre fiction occasionally (such as fantasy and magical realism, which I sprinkled in with the standard literary workshop fiction). Now I am writing and publishing fiction and my classmates, regardless of talent, don't seem to be doing it. They all became editors or vanished. Trying to be literary is a trap. Literary writers fall into a few main categories. There are the celebrated ones no one reads; there are good ones with modest followings; and there are mediocre ones whom nobody reads but who get published by their friends; and there are bad ones who never achieve anything at all. Best just to write well."

"How many readers does a book have to make smile in order to be considered a success? My count is one. If a book available for sale is purchased and makes ONE reader think it's a 5-star book, then in my opinion, it needed to be out there, available. Our world is short on smiles. Sure you could make a counter point about the people who frowned, but that's why you can return ebooks within 7 days. I know my personal feelings of where a book made me feel good were much, much more important than the slight inconvenience I had of reading an ebook sample I didn't like. It's as simple as pressing the cover, holding it down, and selecting Remove from Device. I've watched too many times with our sampler promotions and now our ARC program the EXACT SAME book make one reader go 'OMG, I loved it because I could totally relate....' and another reader go 'UGH, I hated the grammar mistakes and poor editing and the characterization was whiny.' The exact same book. You tell me, which reader is wrong? Which is right? I think they both are, and it's better in my opinion for the reader who didn't like the book to just avoid it and the author in the future so the reader who loved it can have a treasured tale in their collection."

"Most of the books that are like this do sink to the bottom pretty quickly, but it can muddy the waters. An acquaintance of mine who is trade published is horrified at the pace the indie world seems to operate at. He's dumbfounded someone thinks a book is as good as it can possibly be in the space of a couple months as he takes over a year sometimes to just write a project, not counting edits and rewrites."

"I've been saying it for a while: 
The best thing about self-publishing is anyone can do it.
The worst thing about self-publishing is anyone can do it."

"The question that must be asked is: What gives you the right to judge whether your earlier novels are good or not? What qualifies you to make that decision? What you could do is start a secret secret pen name, straighten out the grammar etc., and publish them and let the audience decide. Only readers are qualified to judge your books and even then, only as a collective. An individual, even if that individual is the author, brings far too much subjectivity to the equation, as do small cliques or groups within the overall audience. Online publishing has democratized written literature and, like in any true democracy, it is the voice of the collective that holds sway."

"Actually, writing manuscripts, having them rejected, and putting them in a drawer was one way of learning writing. There was also writing stuff and sending it off to someplace less well paying, but desperate enough to publish it. I am not a great writer, but I think I can tell a passable dirty story, particularly if there's some fetishy stuff tossed in. Loads of writers learned to write while paying the bills, or at least some of them, by grinding out similar stuff and selling it in markets ranging from porno mags, to trashy true confessions, to pulp paperbacks. In fact, the genres favored in pulp paperbacks are the very same genres where indies flourish today. If someone buys a "bad book," enjoys it, and you can go out to dinner or pay your cable bill on the royalties, I don't see this as anything but a win for everyone. The worst book I've read in 20 years sold about a squillion copies last year. I devoured it. I could not put it down. I went on to buy the two others in the series and devoured them. Is EL James supposed to be ashamed because the book is bad from the standpoint of ze artiste or happy that millions of us loved it and she's wearing money hats?"

"Yeah, this. Except the worst book I read last year was an over-written, over-edited trade published romance novel that I DNF at the 40% mark. It was awful in a far worse way than 50 Shades was - it wasn't entertaining, not even a little bit."

"You are assuming that your previous work is bad based on your own judgments, and that of publishers/editors/agents that were not interested in them. Other than yourself, none of the others are accepting or rejecting your work based solely on it's quality, but rather than the hope that they could turn a profit on it. In the end, they were making nothing more than a (supposedly) educated guess at what the public would like two years in the future when the work would likely make it to market. If an artist who uses paint and canvas as their medium creates something, they are free to put it up in their front yard with a 'for sale' sign on it. If someone likes it and buys it, does that make it art? If someone who owns an art gallery sees it and asks to display it in their gallery, does that make it art? If an art critic sees it and raves about it in their column, does that make it art? I think the answer to all of these is 'no'. It was art the moment the artist created it. Digital self-publishing, with all it's flaws, opens the reader up to a multitude of work, both good and bad. (Just like those paintings.) This explosion of available works can only be a good thing. The market will decide what they like, which is the very basis of capitalism, and should be the very basis in determining 'what' is art. It is supposed to be in the eye of the beholder, not the distributor."

"I'm all for readers deciding what gets read, but artists have to trust their instincts. It comes down to what you are passionate about and why you write. Chasing fads or throwing stuff at the wall hoping it gets some tractions is a turn off. I'd rather read the stuff that excites an author. That energy usually translates into a better story. Money grabs tend to look like money grabs. If your instincts say the book isn't good, then you'd be a fool to ignore them. I have a few failed novels that I think I might rescue, and rereading them is like thinking about ex-girlfriends. I have to ask my younger self, 'What the hell were you thinking?' When I was younger I filled pages with chatty dialogue, and I struggle to read it now because it's just filler. It doesn't advance the story at all. If I were honest, and tried to rescue them, I'd have to cut 80-90% and start over. The subplot lack structure, the ending is weak and takes too long to reach. There's a lot of reasons I found it easier to start a new project than fix the predictable boring character at the center of one of them. Recently, I had to trust my gut about starting a new book. I've got a dozen book ideas in development. I had to make a choice, and the one I chose was ready to become a manuscript. They are all decent ideas, but my instincts were to continue a series rather than start a new one. Again, it comes to passion and why I write. It was the right book to start next."

"I think each writer has to decide for himself if his work is good enough to publish, but he can't decide for anyone else. And for every reader/writer who thinks a story is crap, there's another who thinks it's brilliant. Look at some of the so-called classics, they've got a ton of reviews complaining about the bad grammar, the boring story and the fact that the writer can't write. Are the stories people hate art or not? I say yes, they are. It's just a matter of deciding if it's art you want to read. On the subject of craft...we can't all be special snowflakes or at the top of our genre etc. Each of us brings to the table different talents and skills. And craft is an ongoing process. Even if we all learn the same writing techniques, we will each execute them differently and at various levels.  That in mind, I don't think a writer has to be perfect or brilliant before publishing. By the way, how do rejection letters improve your writing? So many people say this but I just don't see how it could improve your writing unless the letters include a detailed critique."

"Having been a slush-pile manuscript reader, yes, traditional publishers do a LOT of rejecting bad manuscripts (like paragraphs without verbs in the sentences, chapters of unending exposition, books without a plot, plots with holes big enough to sink the Titanic, books without a main character, books written entirely in the passive voice).  At a typical slush-pile reading we would go through 200-300 manuscripts in a day and reject them all. Rarely we would find one we liked enough to send up to the head editor for a second read, and 9 out of 10 times, it got rejected. Do they sometimes let a stinker through? Yes, because office politics is office politics (what you think is a bad novel someone else thinks is great). Do great novels sometimes get rejected? ABSOLUTELY! Look at how may publishers rejected the first Harry Potter book."